Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Honored for COVID-19 Communications Efforts
The Communications and Marketing team in the Office of External Affairs at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has won three awards in recognition of its work across content platforms and with the media during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 special edition of the Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health magazine earned a Gold Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). The Bloomberg School’s Public Health On Call podcast, launched in March 2020 during the escalation of the pandemic, won a CASE Silver Award in the category of digital communications. Rounding out the trifecta of awards, the Audience Reach and Engagement team was named the 2021 Public Relations Professional of the Year by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for its 24-7 “war-room” efforts in media relations and social media engagement during the pandemic.
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
Public Relations Professional of the Year
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Audience Reach and Engagement Team
The pandemic provided an unprecedented opportunity not seen since the School’s founding a century ago to share our public health experts’ insights with audiences eager to learn as much as possible about this new virus, the disease it causes, and ways to mitigate, prevent, and treat it. To meet this urgent demand, the Communications and Marketing team hosted virtual expert panel events for the public and media, launched a daily podcast, launched an Expert Insights newsletter, and produced a COVID-19 special issue of the Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health magazine.
The Audience Reach and Engagement team (which includes media relations, research promotion, social media, and community management) engaged new audiences by sharing the School’s scientific and policy expertise over various media platforms with a world eager to understand COVID-19 and its impact. The PRSA Public Relations Professional of the Year Award honors an individual or group who represented the best in public relations as outstanding communicators, establishing or reinforcing the mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and the public. In its announcement, the PRSA judges said: “The Bloomberg School has been cited and quoted in countless publications over the course of the pandemic and has become a household name to get the most up-to-date and reliable information on the pandemic. We are confident this trend will continue for years to come.”
The social media team deployed new approaches, including monitoring and amplifying faculty Twitter posts, developing easy-to-understand content for the general public, and using illustrations and animation to supplement explanations. Throughout the pandemic, the team also continued to promote experts, research news releases, and content in other important areas of public health, including racial health disparities, malaria, gun violence prevention, and opioid addiction.
On the earned media side, media placements of the School and its faculty increased 440% in the past year compared to 2019, with more than 4,300 media mentions for the School and its experts in 2020. Social media impressions increased by more than 770% year-over-year across all platforms. Since March 2020, the team has also grown the School's social media followers by 77% and earned more than 121 million impressions on social media. As part of their award acceptance, the team produced a short video about their work.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
Gold, Magazine - Special Issues
Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine Special COVID-19 Issue (pdf)
CASE’s Circle of Excellence Awards showcase outstanding work in advancement services, alumni relations, communications, fundraising, and marketing. The Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health magazine COVID-19 Special Issue highlights not only short-term research findings from early in the pandemic, but lasting stories that provide insights into the virus and document society’s plight and the challenges that lie ahead.
The magazine’s pandemic coverage drove increases in reader engagement: Pageviews on the magazine website in 2020 were up 87% over 2019 numbers, and pageviews for the COVID-19 special issue were 82% higher than for the previous issue. The magazine’s Gold Award indicates “[an] entry that meets or exceeds all of the judging criteria; exceptional in nature.”
In their announcement, CASE judges noted: “Compelling collage cover, opening, and overall structure that emphasizes the breadth of what’s covered. Wonderful illustrations. It stands out that they highlighted the views of truly marginalized people—sex workers, incarcerated people, Native Americans—rather than just quoting professors.”
Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
Silver, Digital Communications - Podcasts (Frequent)
Public Health On Call Podcast
The Public Health On Call podcast debuted in the early days of the pandemic to make credible, scientific expertise accessible to the public in quick, clear, and informative conversations. Hosts Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean of Public Health Practice at the Bloomberg School, a pediatrician, and former secretary of Maryland’s Health Department, and Stephanie Desmon, director of public relations and marketing at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs and a former journalist, speak regularly with experts from Johns Hopkins and beyond about complex topics. Guests have discussed evolving guidance and emerging evidence throughout the pandemic, and policies around everything from evictions to school reopenings to vaccine rollouts, bringing real-world perspectives and countering misinformation. In its first year, the podcast team produced more than 260 episodes, which were collectively downloaded more than 4 million times.
The podcast’s Silver Award indicates “[an] entry that meets or exceeds most of the judging criteria; superior or outstanding in nature.” In their announcement, CASE judges wrote: “Doing a daily show is very impressive and reflective of the time and resources they’ve devoted to making this possible. As their download numbers attest, they are serving a large audience. We look forward to seeing if/how they’ll keep the show going as the country slowly settles into a new normal.”
The Bloomberg School, founded in 1916, has long been a leading source for public-health information and guidance. The School has been ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report since the rankings were introduced in 1994, including most recently in March 2021.
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